Date:Wednesday August 5 2009
Blackpool President Valeri Belokon has written an open letter to fans, exclusively to Vital.
I am glad for the chance given to express my thoughts in your portal. Since my involvement in Blackpool FC, I have been a frequent visitor of your web page and have always found interesting information and points of view of supporters there. Because, in the end it is you — supporters — who really 'own' the football club and your opinions matters!
I would also like to apologise for the delayed response to the blackpool.vitalfootball.co.uk fan website due to my intense schedule. It also took me some time to prepare this letter as I wanted to reflect my thoughts on the last three years since I have been involved in Blackpool FC. I would also like to thank the editor Jack Gaughan for his persistence and interest in my views and ideas.
In this letter I would like to take the opportunity and provide a retrospect at the development of the club over my three years at its presidency. From the perspective of these accomplishments, I would also like to outline the tasks for the future.
Three years ago, on June 19 to be precise, when I agreed on my participation in Blackpool FC with the other shareholders, I had great plans and a deep conviction that this is the club that would develop to reach the Premier League. I frankly admit that at the time I did not realise all the difficulties that would lie ahead on the road towards achieving the goal. However, if you ask me the same question today — can the club make it to the Premier League — I would give you the same answer that I believe it can.
When I became a shareholder and got involved in the work of the club, I was looking at it more from the perspective of a fan. But the time has taught me that the business point of view is also important. I have realised that a club is poised for trouble unless it is managed as a business and in the end everyone — the management, the players, the shareholders and the fans — have to pay for it. Much to my surprise I have witnessed dissolution of many great clubs, strong teams, due to internal disagreements, disputes and conflicts. Therefore, the business aspect of any club is very important, as professional management helps the team to perform at its best to achieve high objectives.
Over this period we have faced better and worse times, but let us admit, that overall we have had fantastic success. We were one of the weakest third division teams, but have managed to consolidate our place in the championship. In three years we have ascended from the 19th position in the third division (League 1) to the 16th position in the second division (Championship). This has not been a smooth progression without obstacles, we have had them every once in a while. In Simon Grayson`s first summer of recruiting for the 06-07 campaign he signed the likes of Andy Morrell, Claus Jorgensen, Shaun Barker, Michael Jackson and a certain Wesley Hoolahan on loan from Livingston, as the club embarked on a new era. It didn't start very well at all, however, as the team failed to deliver performance everyone had expected. The team only won one of their first 11 league games in League One and many asked for Simon`s head. But the team suddenly gelled on September 26, 2006 at Carlisle and the season got off and running. Despite the loss on that memorable night, it was the start of what was proved to be a successful season for Seasiders which culminated in Pool going on a ten games unbeaten run that lead all the way to Wembley and subsequent promotion to the Championship. The team had finished third in the division. A 2-0 win over Yeovil in the play-off final thanks to goals from Robbie Williams and Keigan Parker was probably the most memorable day of my entire life! Promotion meant that Blackpool returned to what is known as the Championship for the first time in 29 years!
The subsequent season which saw us to return to second flight in English football was full of memorable moments as well. The on-going saga with Wesley Hoolahan — although on the opening match day we were not sure he'd be eligible to play — but he was and helped us open the campaign with unexpected (not for us) win away at Leicester. Then successful Carling Cup run which took us to face mighty Spurs at White Hart lane. Again, the season had its highs and lows, and a draw on the final day ensured our survival in the championship.
The summer of '08 saw a number of key players depart and a number of new arrivals to join. We started building the South Stand that we plan to finish soon, notwithstanding all difficulties. Simon Grayson's departure to Leeds United only with half of the season gone was a major blow to the club's continuity and stability. Fortunately, Parkes and Thommo guided the club to the 16th position in the league, 10 points clear of the relegation zone. At the end of the season we could not reach agreement with Tony Parkes and Ian Holloway was named as the new permanent manager who would lead Seasiders into their third Championship season. During the last three years three different persons have rotated in management of the team — each of these changes rocked the boat and created problems. However, I believe now we have a very enthusiastic and ambitious manager who will move the club forward.
I know many fans are disappointed with some aspects of how the club is being run. I agree that few things we could have done better, but unfortunately due to various commitments, my involvement in day to day management has been limited. Here I would like to say thanks to Karl Oyston for his important contribution over these years. All the executive power has been and remains in Karl's hands, and he has managed to achieve the most important goal — to keep the company's finances sound. If we look around at the different calamities in the football world, we should not underestimate his ability to ensure financial stability of the club.
However, and here I will speak in the terminology of the fans — see the scoreboard for the result. There are many things we have not yet done, but the results are inspiring. I keep a positive outlook at what has not been accomplished — we have many goals to reach out for. For example, the unfinished stand and the training facilities that do not match our ambition do currently preoccupy me.
Overhaul of our training ground has been included in our plan as a priority task and we will complete it step by step. The situation with players is also a key priority; what we want is a strong team that is less dependent on loan players.
Now it is the time to start working on a long-term plan. We have done unbelievably well —what we have to do now is to put the outstanding things in order and take things in a very structured way. It is all pretty tense, but let us face it, it's quite like most clubs in the UK. I have just come back from a board meeting at Blackpool, where I spoke with the manager. We had a long discussion on how to find a balance between the long-term goals of the club and the current situation. I like Ian Holloway, he is no doubt very enthusiastic, full of vitality and club patriotism. I have to confess it is the first time I met a manager who did not hesitate to use the words 'Blackpool' and 'Premiership' together. We came to several agreements because we both desire to improve the situation in the club.
Having listened to the manager we, the shareholders, agreed that we all deserve a chance. Therefore we decided to support the manager and give him the resources for acquiring new players for the team.
I hope this is only the beginning of a long and exciting story about the revival of Blackpool! I am a faithful Blackpool fan in my heart and I wish I had more opportunities to sit in the stands, watching Blackpool games. I regret that my busy schedule prevents me from visiting Blackpool as often as I would like to, but Blackpool FC is always on my mind! Thank you all for your support for and faith in Blackpool FC!
Up the Pool!
Date:Wednesday August 5 2009
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